Sensitivity and kindness go a long way to building strong relationships. For a leader, that means building relationships with suppliers, customers, team members and others in your organization. A leader who is all business and treats people in an impersonal, calculated way won't inspire much cooperation or commitment from others.

One of my colleagues is a master of kindness. Whenever we go out to lunch, she engages the wait staff in conversations, making a point to smile, have eye contact, and express her appreciation for their service. She makes it a daily practice to send handwritten cards and notes to people important to her, both professionally and personally. One time, she learned about a quadriplegic in a nursing home who had no family or friends to visit him, so she started going to see him for a few hours each week…and she did that for 15 years! She consistently amazes those who know her with her ability to respond to the needs of others with compassion.

While this woman seems to naturally think of ways to reach out to someone else, that type of thoughtfulness for many managers requires effort. That's because it's hard to consider other people's feelings and needs when you're busy dealing with all the problems you have to deal with on a daily basis. Disappointment, setbacks and other pressures have a way of focusing your mind on your own situation, and that means your tendency is to think about what you need from others, not what they need from you.

But the reality is, if you want others to be there for you, you have to be there for them. So the question is: What do the people on your team need right now? You see, most acts of compassion aren't dramatic, and it's easy to overlook "the little things" you can do that would make a difference.

For starters, you can pay attention to what people are going through and be ready with consideration and encouragement. It doesn't take much to offer a kind word or a thoughtful gesture. Also, you can make it a habit to reflect on how your words and actions impact on others. Let your heart go out to them, and do what you can to help. Your relationships with the members of your team will grow stronger as you show that you really do care. And remember, the word of encouragement or act of kindness you give today can live in another person's heart forever.

Author Og Mandino's life motto gives further reason for every leader to show compassion: "I will smile at friend and foe alike and make every effort to find, in him or her, a quality to praise, now that I realize the deepest yearning of human nature is the craving to be appreciated."

Copyright Meredith Bell, M.A., Your Voice of Encouragement

Author's Bio: 

Meredith Bell is president and co-founder of Performance Support Systems, Inc., a software publisher whose goal is to help companies strengthen the "people" side of their business. Meredith has been coaching, encouraging and helping leaders for most of her professional career, which spans more than 35 years. You're invited to get a free 88-page leadership ebook, "Strong for Leadership." It's packed with insights, quotes and encouragement to help you deal with the challenges you face every day as a leader. Get your free ebook at